Friday, September 16, 2011

Ironman Recovery - Don't be Stoopid

Julie Moss feet from the finish line.
Post Ironman Wisconsin I've had a lot of questions about recovery.  Recovery is very individual.  It will depend on your fitness, stress, diet and a few other items mixed in just to make it interesting.  After finishing an ultra-distance or Ironman triathlon, there are things that you should avoid and items that will greatly aid your recovery.  This is where you can maximize your Ironman training and effort for the following triathlon season.  This is also where you can get injured and sick.  My recommendation is to relax.  Take time to celebrate getting to the starting line and finishing what you had the courage to start.  Don't run the Chicago Marathon after Ironman Wisconsin; to what point and purpose?  Some people can - doesn't mean you should.  Give serious thought to events and their timing post Ironman racing

1.  Right after the race take a full day of complete rest.  This is assumes no other medical issues or injuries.  Go walk to the Kona roll down.  I'm amazed at how many people don't go to the roll down.  Nobody there means you get the slot - even if you are dead last.  One of my athletes got the flu from a long international plane ride.  Dead last in her age group by more than two hours and a personal worst of 3.5 hours.  She finished.  Kona slot - none of the other women in her age group could afford the time/expense of Kona.  In Kona she beat her "qualifying time" by five hours.

The first week NONE of my athletes do workouts longer than 50-60 minutes.

2.  Get a massage.  A great massage (or even a bad one) will help the body flush the body and get the blood flowing.

3.  Do a "Plus Delta" of your race.  A consulting review technique; what went well (plus), what would you change looking back at the race, training, diet - anything (delta).  Save this and review it before your next Ironman / ultra distance triathlon.

4.  Call / thank those who supported you.  Even if you never took them up on it.  Let them know how much you appreciate their sacrifices and share your success with them.  In Hawaiian this is expressing your "kokua" for them (using it in the slang for "consideration").  Don't overlook this.  When I did Ironman Canada I brought back maple syrup for my friend Kim who roller bladed next to me on my long runs.  A simple gift of consideration.

5.  Eat right.  I'm not saying to avoid comfort foods.  Go ahead and get a cheeseburger and shake (or beer).  As a whole you need to eat good fuel to repair itself and bounce back.

6.  Don't do a complete stop of training.  You need to move.  This will help you with maintenance of your fitness and keep you impervious to injury.

7.  Post Race Depression or Post Ironman Blues - the reality of "life" and a career now demanding payback for time away (along with the lack of exercise induced endorphins) can be really sad.  It doesn't have to be.

A) Plan the next season.  Look at races (if you aren't already signed up) - look at the course profiles. Consider your strengths and the race.
B) Keep celebrating!  Put the finish line picture on your desk.  Plan a night out with your training partners and drink a beer (or two) and the first person to talk about triathlon has to buy the next round.  **NOTE: most triathletes cannot stop talking race stuff.  Keep your mouth shut and talk anything but racing.  Easy way to get free beer.**
C) Sleep in - wake with no alarm - really.  See what it's like on the "other side" for a change.

8.  Work on your weakness and start to improve.  Every year I make a road trip to see the nutritionist and bike fit guy, run form coach, swim coach.

9.  Fix the injuries - if you have something that "just ain't right" - Fix it NOW.  Chiropractor, doctor, dentist, whatever.  You cannot race at your peak when you are worried if a part is functioning at full capacity.
Chris Leigh at Ironman World Champs in Kona.  He never made the finish line.

10.  Build the base.  Start building the large base of aerobic fitness.  Most people fail to go "fast" at Ironman because they don't have enough of an aerobic base to "push off from".

11.  Build power.  No... I'm not (necessarily) talking about the weight room.  Bike power.  You can keep the heart rate down AND do power work on the bike inside.  It's my favorite way to watch college football.

This finish started in 1997.  Two major mechanical problems, forest fires and 94 F heat couldn't beat great preparation.
The biggest lesson you learn with every Ironman "finish" line you may be fortunate enough to cross - this is just another mile marker.  The race is over, but your life is not.  You have seen what is possible in your life.  This was an opportunity to learn and grow as a person.

The choice is easy.  Watch other people live life or fade out of life.  It doesn't have to be racing in Ironman races.  It could be teaching kids, raising money for a charity, cleaning up your neighborhood or as simple as being the best person you can in your own family and enabling great things at home.  

The choice is yours.  Life is waiting.

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